Cisco Partners See Cloud, Video, Verticals As Top Growth Drivers


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Cloud computing, video and vertical-specific solutions are all driving growth for Cisco's U.S. and Canadian channel partner base, and opportunities specific to each are expanding at rapid clip. That was the word from Wendy Bahr, Cisco senior vice president for U.S. and Canada channels, who highlighted partner gains in a press session Thursday morning at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Francisco.

"This conference is about the meat on the bone -- what we're doing inside all the architectures we've been describing," Bahr said. "These architectures are going to support market transitions. It's been pretty exciting, and the network continues to be the platform where all this transformation is taking place."

According to Bahr and Denny Trevett, director of operations, Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg is a game-changer in the sense that it gives Cisco VARs opportunities across the entire video market, high-end to low. It's a notion that's been high on the minds of solution providers at the Partner Summit this week, and also one oft-referenced by Cisco executives like Marthin De Beer, who on Wednesday urged every Cisco partner to understand video.

The message is resonating, Cisco partners said. Ken Scaturro, senior vice president of global sales and business development at York Telecom, Eatontown, N.J., said York has seen business increase in everything from video endpoint resale to managed services to network optimization -- and has moved to capture opportunities in all of those areas.

"Instead of the traditional videoconferencing angle, you can look at it from the perspective of many different customers, and understand how to leverage what they've installed. It's not only the level of technology they have but the quality of experience," Scaturro said.

Scutarro said that York Telecom, which was an existing Cisco and Tandberg partner before the acquisition, was also looking to partner with other solution providers eyeing bigger and bigger networking, infrastructure and services deals, with video as a focus.

"We can't scale our business large enough or fast enough to get in front of all the opportunities out there," he said. "Part of our go to market strategy is the force multiplier aspect. We want to be the partner of partners for the Cisco ecosystem."

For smaller and medium-sized businesses, managed services and hosted and cloud-based video services are also an emerging play. Scutarro said that York Telecom is even offering hardware-as-a-service options for many SMBs, and Cisco's Bahr affirmed that Cisco had seen an uptick Cisco Capital-financed deals involving video.Virtualization and cloud-enabling opportunities in the data center are also a focus play for Cisco solution providers, partners said.

"It's not necessarily how to do more with less, but how to do more differently with less," said Terry Flood, president and CEO of Logicalis, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "I think the cloud, through a highly virtualized environment, offers QOS [quality of service] among other benefits as the promise."

According to Flood, more CIOs and buying customers have moved from a "what's cloud" to a "tell me the story' kind of mindset, partners said, even if cloud computing and its benefits still seem abstract to many of them, and cloud architecture seems insecure.

"It's always easier when someone's asked you to tell them about it," he said. "They all want to hear it now, which is the best first step. I think that most of them have by now seen what Google has done with Google Apps and see the cloud concepts in what Amazon has. If they're thinking about these things they're connecting them to their daily life. They see how it makes sense and then they get the opportunity."

There are great advantages to solution providers who organize around particular vertical market opportunities such as education and health care, said John Breakey, president of Unis Lumin, Oakville, Ontario. Competition in areas like public sector, especially, is increasing, but when you can demonstrate to particular technology stakeholders in those verticals that you speak their language and understand their unique problems, you're more likely than ever to get a sale.

"You can always do more things and add more relevance to the specific business, and you get a happier investment," Breakey said. "

According to Trevett, Cisco would continue to invest in vertical specific training and also direct partners to distributors who offer training programs of their own. It may be useful, however, for partners to invest in that training themselves, Breakey said.

"In one case, we hired a formal trainer who knew the people and knew the language and new the problems," Breakey explained. "Once you get a couple of key people who are a bit more innovative, you win a few deals [in a vertical market], and then after a few wins, you're making a large wave."

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